Mass. Senate approves ‘three strikes’ bill; legislation heads to Gov. Patrick’s desk

The Massachusetts Senate today approved a compromise version of the controversial “three strikes” habitual offender bill.

The 31-7 Senate vote came one day after the House overwhelmingly approved the legislation, which removes the opportunity of parole for violent offenders who accumulate three convictions.

Critics said the revised bill will not necessarily cause the state’s prison population to boom – it is projected to impact fewer than 10 criminals a year – but it will not allow some judicial discretion for three-time offenders.

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The black and Latino caucus has also criticized the bill for not entirely eliminating mandatory minimum sentences.

“Without the safety valve, we have the potential that we are, in fact, doing some harm with the bill,” said state Senator William Brownsberger, a Belmont Democrat.

The bill, which has been debated in one form or another for nearly a decade, will now go to Governor Deval Patrick.

The bill is also known as Melissa’s Law. It got that name from Melissa Gosule, a 27-year-old woman who was raped and killed in 1999. The case brought an outcry for tougher penalties for habitual offenders, which increased when a veteran Woburn police officer was killed by a parolee in 2010.